Saturday, December 3, 2011
photo: Famous scene from Apocalypse Now, on http://www.rotaryaction.com/pages/apocalypse.html
(this is a continuation of another post, which you can find here)
2. Look at the above list of works. Most of them are about the monster within. To borrow from Rousseau and Freud, civilization is the mask that keeps the super-ego in control over the ego. (Whether Rousseau or Freud thought this was good or bad is up to you, and probably irrelevant anyway.) I'm not interested in the good or bad of it, as much as the idea that it simply is. I have a guess that many in Rousseau's time would think that he thought this was bad (and they may be misinterpreting, though he was no fan of social mores, per se, but, then, neither was Neitzsche) and that many in Freud's time would think he thought this was good (which may also be an interpretation; I see him as non-judgmental, preferring to theorize that it simply was, not that it was good or bad; these are value judgments that neither was a proponent of.).
Anyway, the interesting thing here is that the writers in the 1890s were saying that, take away the mask (for Joseph Conrad, for example, that would be civilization), and we become unrestrained evil savages. A Freudian interpretation of Heart of Darkness would read Marlowe as the super-ego sent to suppress Kurtz, the ego. But Imperial England was just as much the brute, but with the mask of "civilized society" hiding its actual brutish nature--which gave birth to Kurtz. In Apocalypse Now, based on Heart of Darkness, the masked civilized society (America, or America's armed forces in Vietnam) sends the super-ego (Willard) to assassinate the ego-driven Kurtz. In Conrad's book, Marlowe is just supposed to bring Kurtz back to civilization, but an astute reader would wonder what such a civilized state would do to Kurtz once it had him. Kill him and hide its base nature, is my guess, which becomes a blatant part of Apocalypse Now's plot.
So take that mask away, and we become Kurtz, or Hyde (Stevenson's potion rips the mask off of Jekyll's true base desires), or Dorian Grey (who's true base nature is captured, hidden and held by the painting), or Dracula (who's aristocratic, but not at night). You get the idea. The fascinating thing is that today's Hyde wouldn't be Hyde, but Jekyll.
Take the vampire films and shows out there today (please). The vampires aren't really the bad guys anymore--it's the people. Zombie films and shows, too: the people are more dangerous than the zombies. So now the Freudian aspect would be that our super-ego is the vampire! The more natural aspect of society--since everyone is truly messed-up, anyway--who the base humans can't get along with. The super-ego that has been sent, in a way, to suppress the savage nature of humans. And zombies--whatever created the zombies is now the mask that, when taken off, has shown humankind what it really is--and it ain't pretty. Sure, zombies eat human flesh and essentially cannibalize--but what's your excuse for doing the same, as a human? The point now, maybe, is that both the ego and the super-ego are equally savage and base.
P.S.--Take a look at the gangster shows and movies, too. Tony Soprano and Jekyll and Hyde are essentially the same.